He had said "We will fight them until the last drop of blood", and he indeed fought them till the very last drop of his blood. How often had we seen an animated Chaudhry Aslam, a top counter-terrorism police officer, on our TV screens, belligerently talking about hunting down the militants.
But it is difficult to imagine there will be no Chaudhry Aslam who put up a brave face even after his own house was attacked by the terrorists in 2011. "I will bury the attackers right here," he told the media, pointing to the two-metre-deep bomb crater, and vowing to launch his own 'jihad' against the assailants. "I didn't know the terrorists were such cowards. Why don't they attack me in the open?"
Better known for leading daring police raids Aslam had survived several attempts on his life but he was assassinated along with two other policemen in a targeted attack on his convoy on the Lyari Expressway in Karachi.
Hailing from village Dhodial in Mansehra, it was 29 years ago that Aslam had joined the police force as an Assistant Sub Inspector (ASI) in 1984 and soon he went onto take the higher ranks of police because of his dedication, bravery and conviction to the cause.
Having been posted in Karachi, Aslam was part of both the operations to restore law & order in the 1990s. And in the post-9/11 scenario he captured many Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) militants so much so that earlier that day when he was assassinated, he had killed three TTP terrorists in a raid.
Many fondly called him 'Super Cop' as he headed the counter-terrorism section of the Crime Investigation Department (CID) and was known for encounters with the leaders of different banned militant groups. The man who lived on the edge died for a cause that was greater than his own self.
"Just cried my heart out after hearing about the cowardly fatal attack on a police officer who stood up when the nation was hunkered down, unable to handle the threat from the cancer that continues to bleed our country," wrote the son of a police officer, who saw his father combating terrorists and criminals.
Just how a routine it has become, as soon as the news of his death broke, the news tickers start scrolling with tributes, condemnations and condolence messages from high-profile politicians and officials on the assassination.
The social media frenzy had also begun soon our Facebook and Twitter timelines were trending with Chaudhry Aslam trivia. They all were suddenly united in this tragedy. They termed it a "hero's death" that "his courage and conviction is the stuff that heroes are made of" that "he stood up for what most people don't even dream of".
As a silent onlooker one just couldn't really gauge the in-the-moment feelings, but what kept coming back was our society's behaviour: Will all these people even remember Chaudhry Aslam in a week's time? What impact will his death have on us as a society that usually likes to look down upon the police wallas?
Or does it even matter in times when so much is happening around us and we have somewhat become indifferent to death as long as it is not of anyone close to us. Will this only be a moment of cyber space sloganeering, to see and be seen civil society vigils or do we plan to take a moment to understand as a society what Chaudhry Aslam really meant for us? "For me Chaudhry Aslam was an individual who was not only just doing his work but protecting and standing up for my fundamental right to life and freedom," says 21-year-old Iftikhar, a student from Karachi. "I do understand that he represented our law enforcing agencies and how hard it is for them to fight against such cowards, yet he stood firm."
"It is sad how we thrive on demeaning our police, we will talk endlessly about how corrupt and inefficient they are but we never realize the hardships and challenges they face," says 27-year-old Saira, a social worker from Lahore. "This is true that police (officers) low-rank or higher officials are in the eye of the storm and the government has really nothing on plan for the onslaught."
With the killings as high-profile as that of Chaudhry Aslam, in the mass media there is always an outside chance of trivializing the matter by calling it a 'conspiracy'. This has become a fashion to term everything a trend. Whenever we as a society want to shy away from our responsibilities we tend to paint it under fancy words such as 'conspiracy'. His heroic death should infuse a new resolve in all stakeholders rather than just shamefully terming it conspiracy and running away.
We must not hide behind pretences, explanations and condemnations alone. We must stand up against all threats to our society and country.
Chaudhry Aslam was the face of Pakistani police in the international media - The Guardian called him "Pakistan's toughest cop". His achievements included a Pakistan Police Medal, Quaid-i-Azam Police Medal and the Tamgha-e-Imtiaz awarded by the President in 2013.
He is among the nearly 150 policemen to have died since September 2013 ever since the ongoing operation in Karachi against criminals began. The operation has so far resulted in the arrest of thousands of suspects, of which some 350 are alleged to have been involved in targeted killings, kidnapping for ransom, terrorism, extortion, etc. More than 700 have been arrested for murder, robberies and other street crimes, while 366 proclaimed offenders and 3,500 court absconders have been apprehended.
Unfortunately, in a society like ours one has to die to be proclaimed a hero and with the tragic assassination of Chaudhary Aslam may we as a society realize that these sentiments should not only be restricted to such happenings alone. Instead, there has to be a greater sense of ownership towards our policemen and the discourse to a war that we are in.
Most of the people choose to live, and they live. Few choose not to live and die for a greater cause, they live forever!
The writer is a journalist based in Lahore.
(Courtesy Hilal Magazine)